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Delegate Public School, Aspire UC celebrate another year of connection

Kelly White

23 January 2024: In a day jam-packed with learning, activities and fun, Delegate Public School students visited the University of Canberra to celebrate another year of the successful outreach partnership with Aspire UC.

Delegate is a regional town situated right on the border of NSW and Victoria. Nestled among kilometres of prime grazing land, the town is home to a large farming community.

Being geographically isolated from higher education institutions can mean young people from the area aren’t aware of the study and career pathways available through higher education, or don’t see university as a viable option for their future.

Brad Bannister, Principal of Delegate Public School, is determined to change that perception.

Back in 2020, Mr Bannister partnered with the University of Canberra to create the ASPIRE Program, tailored to students as young as kindergarten, to show them what university has to offer.

“Often, students from rural and remote communities don't see themselves as being able to compete in many walks of life with other students from larger regional centres or metropolitan schools,” Mr Bannister said.

“We decided to engage with Aspire UC to support our students in understanding what’s out there and what they’re capable of achieving. We want our students to know that higher education is as much of an option for them as any other young person.”

Delegate Public School students test out the UC moot court

Through the partnership, the Aspire UC team visit Delegate Primary School six to eight times throughout the year to run educational workshops and engaging activities, planned around a broad range of future pathways.

The team cover all faculties across the University. With one day covering health-related careers and degrees, while the next might cover the world of science and technology.

In the cherry on top of a successful year, Delegate students and school staff pack into a bus to visit Canberra for a two-day excursion, and finally see the University campus for themselves.

Each year, the students are required to complete both an entry and exit survey to the program and in only four years at Delegate, the beliefs of the students have changed dramatically.

In 2020, the entry survey to the program indicated that only 40 per cent of students from Delegate Public saw themselves as potential university students or as people capable of having a university education. This has increased to over 95 per cent of students in 2023.

This year’s ACT excursion featured a visit to the National Zoo and Aquarium and Mt Stromlo Observatory, before spending a full day touring the Bruce campus facilities and participating in hands-on workshops in the University’s specialised film studio and the moot court.

Students behind the news camera

Widening Participation Program Coordinator Tess Canty has been involved with the Delegate partnership since its inception and couldn’t be more pleased with the outcomes of the program – crediting the school staff and her passionate team of Aspirations Agents for their collaboration.

“I work with the best team and staff. They're all incredible with the young people; just empathetic, excited. They engage so well with the students,” Ms Canty said.

“Our Aspire Agents come from a diverse range of backgrounds – some are from rural towns themselves, so they really understand where our Delegate students are coming from. They’re just the most incredible role models for the students.

“I was talking to one Year 5 girl, who when I spoke to her at the start of the year, she had no idea what she wanted to do. Two of our Agents study Psychology, and after the time she’s spent with them, she told me that wants to be a psychologist when she’s older. This outcome is what our work is all about.”

Aspire UC stalls line the concourse